Energy Debate Fuels Fertilizer Debate

The war in Ukraine has fueled a debate over not just high gas prices but high fertilizer prices.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Commodity Classic, soaring fertilizer prices are due to the war in Ukraine, heavy reliance on imports, high global demand, and high energy prices.

But North Dakota GOP Senator John Hoeven argues White House restrictions on fossil fuel extraction are choking his state’s ability to produce fertilizer–using the example of a coal gasification plant. “Takes coal, converts it to synthetic natural gas, and then uses that to make fertilizer…urea, anhydrous. So, we’re not buying it from Indonesia…we’re producing it right here at home, but those costs that go into energy production, whether it’s on coal, oil or natural gas, all are driving up costs in everything we do.”

Secretary Vilsack recently announced a $250 million CCC-backed grant program to expand domestic fertilizer production, pointing out the U.S. is the second or third top importer of the three main fertilizer ingredients.

Hoeven, at a recent press conference with other GOP Ag senators, argues oil and gas permit and leasing restrictions are what’s discouraging domestic production. “The Biden Administration needs to change course, and that’s the point we’re making, whether it’s for energy, whether it’s the food supply, or whether it’s our consumers here at home, trying to stop this growth in inflation, or whether it’s working with our allies, to support Ukraine.”

The administration blames Russia, a big fertilizer exporter, for its unprovoked war on Ukraine, and is providing Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid. But as with the gas price debate, Hill Republicans argue fertilizer inflation is being driven by domestic policies, not foreign events.

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